IBC 2019: Broadcasters are looking for a clear path to IP
While virtually every broadcaster by now understands the benefits of an IP infrastructure, and most assume that it will be the end point for everyone who wants to create and distribute content in the future, the path forward is not as clear.
Among the hundreds of equipment vendors and technical sessions associated with this year’s IBC Show in Amsterdam, many will be seeking a practical way to transition to the SMPTE ST 2110 standard that doesn’t break the budget and can be deployed as quickly as possible. It won‘t be an easy or fast migration, as much legacy equipment and workflows have to be transitioned in a phased approach so as not to throw everything away and start over, but it will happen. Indeed, broadcasters, and production facilities that have significant investments in large-scale SDI plants are going to face technical and budgetary challenges as they transition to newer IP-based topologies.
The need to support current SDI workflows during the transition is key to a successful conversion. One solution now being experimented with is to use an “island” approach, which can lower the transition risk when moving to the world of uncompressed IP video, audio, data and timing.
What this year’s customers want is equipment that supports both SMPTE ST 2110 and SDI standard workflows while allowing media organizations to invest in IP infrastructure without disrupting their current operations. This new technology roadmap has to be able to allow facilities to adapt to new production and distribution environments with capabilities that manage ingest, transfers, and playout to and from a wide range of systems and devices. This IP support will enable users to process a wide range of parallel streams including SMPTE ST 2110, ST 2022-2 and NDI for linear channels, and RTMP for digital platforms like Facebook Live, YouTube and Twitter.
Today’s video operations are mainly SDSDI (270 Mb/s), HD-SDI (1.5 Gb/s) and 3G-SDI (progressive formats at 3 Gb/s). When converted to uncompressed IP, these signals fit nicely into the 10 Gb/s routing lanes of current IT infrastructure switch ports. However, higher resolutions of UHD-1 (12 Gb/sec) and UHD-2 (24 Gb/sec) are becoming common with OB trucks and it remains unclear as to how to approach these larger signal payloads.
Most current baseband connectivity products include SDI I/O’s. Few vendors supply equipment with native uncompressed IP I/O’s. For example, cameras and servers are now starting to feature IP connections, facilitating a wide variety of remotely controlled productions. However, the creation of various uncompressed IP formats such as 2022-6, TR-03, AVB, and others has led to indecision about IP and therefore some manufacturers have avoided placing IP I/O’s in their equipment. Given that some production and broadcast equipment has IP while other gear does not, engineers will need to consider this as part of their transition plan.
As these IP solutions begin to emerge, engineers must consider how to best manage their facilities in a completely new environment. Operator workflows will most likely remain the same, at least in the short to medium term. The question becomes how to navigate this new IP technology and implement IP inside current SDI plants.
Software-defined ingest and playout solutions are critical to IP media operations and therefore need careful consideration after deciding to make the upgrade. Show attendees are encouraged to ask questions about independent interoperability tests conducted by the Joint Task Force on Networked Media (JT-NM) and the Advanced Media Workflow Association (AMWA), ensuring interoperability across multi-vendor solutions. No one wants to implement a system that isn’t compatible with the industry standard.
So while it’s easy to see how IP transport and ST 2110, in particular, can bring more flexibility and more utilization of studio infrastructure than SDI is able to provide, getting there is the technical hurdle the entire industry is now wrangling with. There are many strategies an operator might utilize to migrate a baseband signal plant to IP, but if history is any guide, the transition will follow the familiar island approach that was used during the conversions from analog to digital and from SD to HD. It’s clear that the transition to IP will not be undertaken in wholesale fashion. Rather, SDI and IP will coexist for years to come simply because operators will not completely abandon prior investments. The scenario in existing facilities will most likely be some mix of old SDI and new IP in some combination that makes technical and economic sense for the broadcast facility.
It’s also important to note that during these transitions, workflows change. And one of the chief arguments supporting the move to IP is the ability to manipulate and control the signal more effectively than ever before. While there is much debate across the industry as to the advantages and disadvantages of IP carriage of audio and video, most industry experts concede that the transition from baseband SDI to baseband IP is inevitable.
The IBC Show has always been a good stomping ground for new innovation and finding out the latest vendor and media company strategies. There’s a real sense of “we’re in this together” permeating the industry right now as the IP migration is fully underway and many are willing to share their success stories. What’s yours?